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It’s been quite a ride for several East Valley baseball players over the past few months. They went from starring in high school to being selected in the Major League Draft to entering the minor leagues.
When Matt Haggerty began high school at Seton Catholic, he had mononucleosis. When he began his senior year, it was on a broken foot.
The East Valley has hundreds of athletes who will move on to play college sports, a few might eventually reach the professional ranks. Needless to say, paring down a list of the top players from the 2012-13 school year was no easy task. However, there were five males that stood out above the rest, either for their complete dominance in one sport or their ability to compete at the highest level in different ones.
A couple East Valley standout shortstops in Dustin Peterson and Riley Unroe were both second-round selections in the Major League Baseball draft on Thursday.
D.J. Peterson will be home from college soon, and little brother Dustin will be there waiting with a smile on his face and a paddle in his hand.
Tyler Viza’s inclusion at No. 427 in Baseball America’s top 500 draft prospects shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who saw Desert Vista’s comeback against Brophy in the first round of the Division I state baseball tournament.
Pat Herrera, who resigned last week after an ultra-successful stint coaching baseball at Desert Ridge, has been hired at Skyline.
All-Tribune First Team
If he so chose, Riley Unroe could rest on his laurels and still be one of the best baseball players in the East Valley.
Desert Ridge's Riley Unroe is the Tribune Player of the Year for baseball, shown Thursday, May 23, 2013. [Tim Hacker/Tribune]
Desert Ridge's Riley Unroe is the Tribune Player of the Year for baseball, shown Thursday, May 23, 2013. [Photo Illustration by Tim Hacker/Tribune]
Pat Herrera, who coached Desert Ridge baseball to consecutive state championships in 2009 and 2010, resigned on Thursday, according to athletic director Darrell Stangle.
Outlooks for the Divisions I and II baseball state tournaments
Desert Ridge senior Riley Unroe is one of the more productive switch hitters in the state with a .561 average, nine home runs and 50 RBIs in 22 games.
Maybe it’s inaccurate to say Riley Unroe was born to be a switch-hitter, but the evidence was pretty clear by age 2.
Desert Ridge switch hitter Riley Unroe,17, shown Monday, April 1, 2013 in Mesa.
Desert Ridge switch hitter Riley Unroe,17, shown Monday, April 1, 2013 in Mesa. [Tim Hacker/Tribune]
A bad hop sent a baseball smashing into Riley Unroe’s face early in Tuesday afternoon’s game against Gilbert, causing a temporary stoppage in play.
The lasting image of the 2012 baseball season was Dylan Cozens blasting a walk-off, opposite-field homer to lift Chaparral to the Division I championship over Brophy.
The diagram is titled, “The shot that cleared the clock.”
All-Tribune First Team
The worlds of Scottsdale and the lower East Valley cities will collide in Division I baseball this season.
All-Tribune First Team
It was, after all, Dobson that put Desert Ridge into this position.
It hasn't won enough state titles to be considered a habit, but Desert Ridge is working on it.
The Jaguars won their second straight state baseball championship on Saturday by downing Mountain Pointe, 10-4, at Glendale’s Camelback Ranch.
Last year it was Desert Ridge winning the 5A-II title. This year it's the 5A-I Championship.
Senior shortstop D.W. Warner came up huge at the plate for the Jaguars with a two-run single in the fourth inning, then another RBI single in the sixth.
"I wanted this so bad for our senior class," Desert Ridge coach Pat Herrera said.
Saturday’s win was the 30th of the season for Desert Ridge and it is the third time in as many games the Jaguars beat the Pride this season.
It was Warner who gave the Jaguars took the lead for good in the fourth inning when he singled home Mike Britton and Riley Unroe. Mountain Pointe starter Josh Alexander had walked the first two batters he faced on eight straight pitches, but the Pride got the next two outs before Warner came up with the big hit.
Warner’s single in the sixth was just the start as Desert Ridge scored six times in the inning to seal the victory. Austin Cain drove in two more with a single later in the inning.
This game was a far cry from the Jaguars' previous two in this state tournament. Desert Ridge faced Gilbert in both of those games and had narrow 5-4 and 5-3 victories.
Desert Ridge got a complete-game victory out of junior Scott Hoffman, who finished the season a perfect 13-0 on the mound. Of those victories, three came against the Pride and three more came against powerful Gilbert.
After the second inning he allowed just one run and four hits.
"I had a hard time keeping the ball down," Hoffman said.
It wasn’t until he was intentionally walked in the fifth that Hoffman got mad. He wanted to hit and he said that motivated him to pitch better in the final two innings which he did.
The Pride got a perfect start to the game by scoring twice in the top half of the first inning off Hoffman. With two out, Kevin Cron homered to left, Josh Alexander singled and then came home on a double by Joey Curletta.
It was a significant home run for Cron as it was the junior’s 22nd of the season which ties the state record set by Desert Vista’s Corey Myers.
"We were anxious at the start," Herrera said. "They punched us right in the nose. I always tell them to be the tougher team."
But after the first two innings the Pride suffered, offensively and defensively. They committed five errors and a passed ball by Cron allowed another run to score. Cron caught the game with an injured foot and his mobility limited him behind the plate and trying to throw out base runners.